Cranesville Swamp

Central Appalachian Mountains

At Cranesville Swamp, the elements of wind, water, mountains, and temperature have created a landscape that is both beautiful and rare. In combination, these climactic elements have produced a natural occurrence known as a “frost pocket” – a low area that collects moisture and cooler temperatures. As weather travels west-to-east across North America, the hills surrounding Cranesville Swamp channel precipitation and chilled air into the valley, which make the preserve one of the coolest and soggiest spots in West Virginia.     

Conservation Work

The greatest threats to Cranesville Swamp Preserve and its wildlife result from climate change, the impacts of historic logging,incompatible development, invasive species and deer overbrowsing.  The Conservancy has been working to mitigate these threats through land acquisition, forest and swamp habitat restoration, wildlife habitat research, and education efforts.  Highlights include: 

  • 1,774 acres purchased since 1960
  • 18,000 red spruce and 1,150 white pines planted over 300 acres
  • Continual monitoring for new invasive species and management of existing invasive species (e.g. autumn olive, cattail)
  • Water quality research
  • Trail enhancement and nature interpretation projects to improve educational opportunities
  • Saw-whet owl and flying squirrel research 

Play a role in supporting these important conservation efforts and make a gift today!

  • Water bars installed across abandoned logging roads to reduce erosion

Cranesville Swamp Trail Audio Tour - New!

Planning a visit to the Cranesville Swamp Trail? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist there with you in person!

In this audio tour, Rodney Bartgis, West Virginia’s state director, and Kevin Dodge, Garrett College Wildlife professor, discuss bog plants, birds, bears and how the area will respond to climate change.

Step 1: Download the Cranesville Swamp Trail audio tour map. This map will help identify which audio tracks to play based on your location on the trail, so make sure to take a copy with you on your trip.

Step 2: Download and save each of the below mp3 files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests!

  1. Cranesville Habitat and Man's Role
  2. Red Pines
  3. Hydrology of Cranesville Swamp
  4. Powerline View
  5. Star Violet
  6. Origin of Water in Cranesville
  7. Climate Change
  8. Red Spruce
  9. Logging the Wetland
  10. Evaporation and Transportation
  11. Similarities and Differences
  12. Roads

(All files are .mp3 and should download automatically once clicked. If you have trouble downloading, right-click each file and then select 'Save')


Cranesville Swamp

Watch a slideshow about Cranesville Swamp.


Cranesville Swamp Preserve Video

Explore this remarkable preserve, a place to remember.

What You'll See

The cool, wet environ of Cranesville Swamp has over thousands of years fostered the formation of peat – made of compacted sphagnum moss that creates a nutrient-poor environment as it breaks down.  Few trees can survive in the resulting bog, but tall eastern hemlock, red spruce and tamarack prevail in the acidic environment.  Lower to the ground, plants like sundew, cranberry and sedge thrive in open areas.  

Throughout these rare and diverse wetlands communities, visitors to the preserve can witness a spectacular range of birds and mammals.  Lucky visitors may spot the rare northern water shrew, or catch a glimpse of a bear rummaging through the shrub thickets surrounding Muddy Creek.  Patience and binoculars may afford others a glimpse of any one of the more than 100 bird species found at Cranesville, such as alder flycatcher, Blackburnian warbler, or the saw-whet owl – which nests in stands of red spruce and hemlock in the conifer swamp forest.

hiking, birding

There are five trails at Cranesville Swamp, including a 1,500-foot boardwalk. Although all trails are fewer than two miles and not difficult to walk, hiking boots are recommended as some trails may be muddy. We encourage you to use sunscreen when appropriate, avoid poison ivy along the trail, and use insect repellant to protect against chiggers, mosquitoes, and ticks—especially deer ticks— which can carry Lyme disease. Camping, pets, bicycling, and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trails.

  • Before you visit, please download the Cranesville Swamp Trail Guide for further information.
  • Bring plenty of drinking water, sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses), rain gear, and bug protection. Binoculars, field guides, and a camera may be useful.
  • Wear socks and waterproof shoes.
  • Wear light colors to help you spot and remove ticks.

The following are not permitted at Cranesville Swamp Preserve:

  • Biking and mountain biking
  • Camping 
  • Driving an ATV or off-road vehicle
  • Smoking
  • Horseback riding 
  • Removing any part of the natural landscape 
  • Snowmobiling
  • Geocaching 
  • Cooking or campfires
  • Pets

Cranesville Swamp Preserve is open year-round during daylight hours. Please respect neighboring homeowners by staying on the preserve.

From Morgantown (approximately 1.5 hours):

  • Take I-68 east to Keysers Ridge, MD exit 14 and follow Route 219 south for 19 miles.
  • From Route 219, turn right (west) on Mayhew Inn Road, and after 1.4 miles turn left on Bray School Road.
  • In 1.6 miles at a T intersection, turn right on Oakland/Sang Run Road (Route 15).
  • After 1 mile, turn left on Swallow Falls Road
  • After 2.6 miles, take a hard right on Cranesville Road.
  • After approximately 4 miles, turn left onto Muddy Creek Road and immediately park on the gravel behind the red house at the corner of the intersection. Our informational kiosk with brochures, trail guides, and other information can be found here.
  • To get to the trail head for the swamp, visitors must take a left back onto Cranesville Rd. and take the next left onto Lake Ford Rd.
  • Take a sharp right curve in the road and stay to the right at the fork.
  • Stay to the right at the next fork in the road, and Cranesville Swamp is 0.2 mile down the gravel road. Park in the lot.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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